The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community conducted a much-anticipated ground-breaking ceremony on February 20 to formally mark the start of construction for the new Judicial Court Center at 10040 E. Osborn Road. The new center, at the corner of Longmore and Osborn roads across from the Two Waters governmental complex, will consist of a two-story building and an adjacent single-story building together encompassing more than 90,000 square feet. Construction is expected to be complete within 18 months, and ongoing progress updates will be provided.
The Judicial Court Center will comprise not only courtrooms, but the Legal Services Department, the Defense Services Department and the Prosecutors Department as well. The seven courtrooms (two civil, two criminal, two juvenile and one appellate) will feature up-to-date infrastructure to support recording court proceedings on audio and video; there also will be video conferencing between the SRPMIC Department of Corrections and the courtrooms for video arraignments. The facility will feature comfortable reception and lobby areas, meeting spaces, and improved functional areas for various administrative staff, court personnel, judges and the like.
The ground-breaking ceremony included an agenda of selected speakers and was emceed by Benjamin Gonzales of the Adult Probation Office. The program began with a blessing offered by Eleanor Enos, a court clerk and longtime employee of the justice system. Councilman Ricardo Leonard remarked about the importance of the land the facility is built upon and the importance of honoring the ancestors who have lived in the area; he offered a traditional O’odham song for this occasion.
Throughout the morning, comments were offered by SRPMIC President Delbert Ray, Sr.; Chief Justice Ryan Andrews; principal Krista Shepherd and senior associate Jim Miller of architectural firm Gould Evans Phoenix, the project architects; and representatives on behalf of Margaret Rodriquez, owner of Au’ Authum Ki, Inc., the contractor for the project.
President Ray reflected on the occasion. He shared, “I think about my own house warming, [when] I think about such occasions [as this]. I think about when the staff will be moving in to their new [Justice Center]. I remember the move into the current court building. I remember Martin Harris, Judge Mercado, Judge Owens, and all the staff. This is who I think about, when I think about [this] facility…About what it was like moving into [a] new building – how special it was.”
“As programs have progressed, there have been different [people], different policies that have been put in place. Let’s revisit [the system] before we move into the new building …. I hope it is all service oriented; that it is all for the betterment for the Community, This is my [hope] for the departments and the directors.”
He added, “I am so very excited for the workers. They have a new place, [hopefully with] new ideas …. I want to extend a word of encouragement to the Council for the vision they had, and for President Enos for the leadership she provided. I want to provide encouragement to the Community—this is going to be a new day when this place opens up; it’s going to be exciting. To the staff, you are doing a good job, just keep it up, and work toward better cohesiveness that is going to have to take place in this court facility.”
In his remarks, Judge Andrews stated, “We have been waiting for this [new facility] to happen … for the process to get going. I would like to thank the present and past Councils for providing the funding for this to be done. There was always discussion [about a new justice building], but in the past it was put aside.
“At one time, the court was a one-stop shop. You had everybody in the building—you had the court, you had legal services, prosecution, you had defense and probation. Over time, the judicial system outgrew the [current] building, offices had to move out to other locations, and even the court [operations] has outgrown the building. When this building opens, it will again become that one-stop shop [service experience]. It is going to help the administration of justice in this Community, because if someone needs to come take care of [business at hand], they will also be able to go see an advocate, they can go see a prosecutor, defense counsel, they will be able to do that—we will be all on-site.”
Andrews emphasized, “As Councilman Leonard said, the building will be a facility for others to come look at; it can be a model for others in the justice community. On behalf of all departments within the justice system, I would like to say thank you … to past-president Enos for her support, and to President Ray [with whom I have had many discussions about the justice community]. I am looking forward to the next step, the opening of the new Judicial Court Center.”
Shepherd and Miller of Gould Evans noted that their group went out into the Community to get input from the various districts to help guide and shape the final design. They gathered comments that included the need for open spaces and requests to reflect the land; areas should be comfortable, the building materials should remind people of the earth, and it should feel welcoming to everyone.
The most notable feedback was that the building should not be like the high-rise courtrooms in downtown Phoenix, but it should look like the lands here in the Community. There will be views of Red Mountain and views from all sides of the building; the center of the building will have desert landscaping and an open courtyard. Shepherd stated, “We know this project should reflect the Community and serve the Community.”
The ground-breaking concluded with the official “turning of the ground.” The formal group with shovels included the SRPMIC president, vice-president, various Council members, and selected key staff members from the justice system. Each division within the justice system posed for their own departmental group picture. It was evident that the staff members were proud and emotional about the experience; they were excited about the ground-breaking to mark the constructions of a new justice center.
At the end, a delicious brunch was provided as everyone mingled and reflected on the festivities.